President Bush today praised the House of Representatives for passing a supplemental war spending bill that includes expanded Montgomery GI Bill benefits, and he urged the Senate to quickly do the same.
Bush said last night's approval of about $162 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will provide vital resources to servicemembers waging the war on terror.
"This legislation gives our troops the funds they need to prevail without tying the hands of our commanders in the field or imposing artificial timetables for withdrawal," he said.
The bill, as passed, also includes provisions expanding the GI Bill and allowing servicemembers to transfer unused educational benefits to their spouses and children.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates first heard the transferability issue raised during a military spouses' group meeting at Fort Hood, Texas, and pitched the idea to President Bush. The president liked the concept so much that he included it in his State of the Union address in January. Bush said in May during a Military Spouse Day celebration at the White House that he hoped to be able to sign the legislation into law quickly.
"It is the absolute right thing to do," he told the spouses. "It should send a clear message that we care for you, we respect you, and we love you."
Gates has said he believes the measure would boost both recruiting and retention.
About 97 percent of servicemembers sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill, but only about 70 percent actually use the benefit, and typically they use about half of the 36 months of benefits available to them, officials said.
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service